Nutrition impacts how your child sleeps, plays and develops so you want to give your baby the best food. But where is a mom supposed to start? How do you know what is best?
We recently met Michelle who works for the HappyFamily organic food company as one of Chicago’s local representatives. She is a mom to twin 10 month old girls and is passionate about giving children the best healthy start to life. We had a few minutes to catch up with her and get the inside scoop on raising a happy, healthy baby.
HappyFamily was started when your founder, Shazi Visram, realized there was a real need for busy parents to find a solution to giving their babies healthy food. Can you tell us more about how HappyFamily came to be?
Shazi’s vision came about as she listened to a friend’s anguish about the difficulty of finding the time to make her own baby food between caring for her baby, keeping up with her work, and all of the other demands of her very full life. When we launched our first product line called HappyBaby in 2006, there were no other homestyle options on the market. The only alternative to highly processed baby food in jars was making your own at home, which can be time consuming for busy families.
You gave your twins a healthy start. Can you tell us about your mom journey with this? Were you overwhelmed at where to begin?
The amount of information out there about what you should and should not feed your children is definitely overwhelming. I knew from the start that I wanted to stick with organic, fresh foods as much as possible. My approach when I need to use packaged foods has been to find products that are certified organic and have ingredient lists I can easily understand. The minimally processed foods will typically have a list that is relatively easy to decode. If I don’t know what an ingredient is, I look it up. So far, the process has been very manageable and I have peace of mind in knowing what I’m feeding my kids.
What is the biggest challenge to raising your kids in an organic environment and eating healthy?
For me, it’s time. Shopping for the best foods and cooking wholesome, healthy meals can be very time consuming. Add to that the fact that parents and kids are constantly on the go with work, school, and countless activities, and it can seem impossible to keep up with healthy eating. I try to get around this by being diligent about planning ahead. Each week I make a list of meals we will eat, including snacks and meals that can be taken “to go” if needed. (For my girls, this means snacks I can throw in the diaper bag in case our outing runs too long.) I use that list to do all the grocery shopping for the week. The planning takes a little extra time on the weekends, but makes life so much easier during the week.
This can be more difficult if your kids are not always eating under your supervision – for instance, at daycare or school. Be sure to find out what foods are being offered and pack food from home if possible. As parents, I think our best bet is to teach our children about healthy foods and lead by example so that they will automatically make good choices when we can’t choose for them.
Can you give us 3 tips any parent can do to help their children to live a more organic & healthy lifestyle?
Make a healthy diet and regular exercise the norm for the whole family. It’s so important not to overlook our own health since our children will learn from the examples we set.
Choose organic whenever possible. When organic foods are not available, or are cost prohibitive, use the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists as a guide: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/
Make healthy eating fun by cooking together, visiting farmers’ markets, and planting a small garden. Even though my girls are only 11 months old, I already take them out in the backyard with me to pick the veggies that we grow. Their faces light up when I let them have a taste.
Now for a quick glance into Michelle’s life.
What has been your greatest joy as a mom?
Watching my daughters grow and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they learn something new.
What keeps you going through busy days?
Remembering how blessed I am to have two happy, healthy babies and a wonderful husband. It helps to keep things in perspective.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
A giant piece of chocolate cake.
If you had a “free day” with no commitments or obligations, what would you do with it?
I would “sleep in” until at least 7:00am (I can’t remember the last time that happened.) Then, I would treat myself to a morning at the spa, followed by meeting the girls and my husband for a picnic lunch or trip to the zoo and finally, dinner and a movie with my husband.
If someone was going to write a book on your life, what would the title be?